By Jethro Ibileke
As the September 19 date of the gubernatorial election in Edo State approaches, campaigns are being intensified by the participating political parties, trying to sell their respective candidates to the electorate in ward-to-ward campaign, in compliance with the COVID-19 directive outlined for the election.
Fourteen political parties are fielding candidates for the election. They are: African Alliance (AA), Action Congress (ADC), Action Democratic Party (ADP), All Progressives Congress (APC), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Allied People’s Movement (APM), Action People’s Party (APP) and Labour Party (LP)
The others are: New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), National Rescue Movement (NRM), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Young Progressive Party (YPP) and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
According to the latest information from INEC secretariat in Benin City, candidates of the various participating parties are: Paul Obhafuoso (AA), Akhigbe Ehiabhi (ADC), Emmanuel Ibio (ADP), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu (APC), Lucky Idehen (APGA), Igbineweka Osamuede (APM), Amos Areloegbe (APP).
Others are: Isaiah Osifo (LP), Tracy Agolebun (NNPP), Stevie Nash Ozono (NRM), Godwin Obaseki (PDP), Felix Obayangbon (SDP), Jones Osagiobare (YPP) and Akhalamhe Amiemenoghena (ZLP).
Political pundits are of the opinion that the real contenders in the election are candidates of the PDP, incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki and that of the APC, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. They noted that the other political parties do not have structures spread across the state like APC and PDP.
While most of the parties are not expected to make any meaningful impact in the election, there are however, a few others that could spring surprises, and so might not be wished away with the wave of a hand. Interestingly, some of these parties have either openly or tacitly endorsed candidates of either PDP or APC.
Below is an analysis of a few of the candidates considered to be top gladiators in the election.
1. Governor Godwin Obaseki
Governor Obaseki was a stock broker and investment banker before joining the administration of former governor Adams Oshiomhole, as head of the economic and strategic team for eight years. The then Governor Adams Oshiomhole, described him as the brain box of his government. He later succeeded Oshiomhole as governor in 2016, on the platform of the APC.
Even though a green horn in politics then, Obaseki was quick to master the tricks and maneuverings of politics under the watch of his former godfather, before they fell apart. He also enjoyed the unflinching support and loyalty of his deputy, Philip Shaibu, who is a thorough bread politician. Hence, they have been able to withstand the onslaught of Oshiomhole whom he fought to standstill, during their supremacy battle and navigate his way through the murky waters of Edo politics. This has further increased his popularity among the people.
Pundits believe that Obaseki’s strength lies in his popularity and acceptability to the masses. Obaseki has also been engaging in propaganda to sway support to his side. Since the campaign began, he has recorded huge crowd of followership, but of note is the gale of defection rocking his camp which may spell doom for him.
2. Pastor Osagie Ize-lyamu
Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, or POI, as he is popularly known, is a grassroots politician whose loyalists spread across the 18 local government areas of the state. He served as Chief of Staff to former Governor Lucky Igbinedion, and later Secretary to the State Government between 1999 and 2007.
Ize-Iyamu who served as the Director-General of Oshiomhole’s re-election campaign in 2012, fell out with the latter in 2014 and defected to the PDP, where he picked the party’s governorship ticket, but lost.
He has structures across the 192 wards in the state, the strength and followers, being a political mobilizer. His greatest strength lies in his foot soldiers and his investment in people across the state, when he held-sway as the SSG and Chief of Staff.
Political analysts are however of the opinion that the many negative comments made against him by his present benefactor, Oshiomhole, would be his greatest undoing.
Besides, many also feared that the recent court case instituted against the APC and its deputy governor candidate, Gain Audu, over alleged discrepancies in the names on the documents he submitted to INEC, could spell doom for Ize-Iyamu and his party, if it ever goes the way of the party in Bayelsa State in the last governorship election.
But with the gale of defection rocking the Obaseki’s camp and with the power at the centre, Ize-Iyamu is no pushover, he may as well deliver a technical knockout to Obaseki. So far in his campaign, he has been pulling crowd and may be the governor of Edo State come September 19.
3. Isaiah Osifo
Osifo is the candidate of the Labour Party, who is not new to the state politics. He was a former chairman of Uhumwonde Local Government Council of the state, and Chief of Staff to Prof. Oserhiemen Osunbor for the 18 months he was governor, before he was removed.
Even though this is his first time as candidate of any political party, he is however not new to the intricacies of the business of politics.
While no one expects him to dislodge the likes of Ize-Iyamu or Obaseki in the election, political watchers are however of the opinion that he could cause some ‘inconveniences’ for the two top contenders in Uhunmwonde, his own local government area.
4. Stevie Ozono
Ozono is the candidate of the National Rescue Movement, NRM. He is not known in Edo politics like Ize-Iyamu and Obaseki, and this is his first time as a candidate of any political party. He thinks he stands the same chance like any other candidate, irrespective of their popularity.
Ozono has vowed to reap dividends of the various court cases that may likely disqualify candidates of the two major parties.
Meanwhile, some of the residents who spoke on the governorship candidate said the contest is between the candidate of the APC and PDP.
A resident of Benin, the state capital, Mr.Gideon Albert, said the contest is between candidates of the two major political parties, Governor Obaseki and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of PDP and APC respectively.
He said: “If you look at other parties in the state, many of them only exist in name. They are only in Benin city and doesn’t have structure across the state, then how will they make impact in the election.”
Also speaking, another resident who gave his name simply as Abass, said other candidates are in the contest just to boost their CV or to test their popularity.
“Many of the party have even collapsed their structure for other candidates even when they are featuring candidates for the election. Many of the party are not even known to voters,” Abass said.